Review: California Crunchwrap and Volcano Cheesy Gordita Crunch from Taco Bell

Taco Bell has a long history of coming up with tasty unique menu items.  As a child obsessed with everything Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I went through about a year where all I wanted to eat was pizza. Taco Bell answered with the Mexican Pizza. In high school, I was bombarded with nonstop ads for Chalupas and Gorditas, which along with being delicious, made me develop a hatred for tiny talking, hairless dogs. Long story short, over the years, Taco Bell has developed its own genre of food. No, it isn’t Mexican; but it is one of a kind and delectable. For some odd reason, in the last couple of years, all they can manage to do is whip up a “blandito covered in mediocre sauce”. Being tired of Taco Bell’s lack of effort, I decided to whip up some new menu items of my own. Taking ingredients already offered in their store, I decided to act like I work for YUM! Brands and create a couple menu items I thought people would buy and be pleased with. The results were pretty good.

Before we get to the review, I just want to say that I learned some things about reviewing food with this post. Namely, I never quite realized how ugly Taco Bell’s food is until I tried to photograph it. It was kind of like trying to have a burn victim model swimsuits. There isn’t much to work with and no matter what you do; you know it will turn out awful. On top of that, the Taco Bell I was dining in might have been the darkest fast food establishment I’ve ever been at. It was like being in an empty nightclub that smelled like nachos. No, my camera does not have a flash, so I decided to take the pictures outside on the hood of my car. Yes, people gave me weird looks. Though this is the price one pays to review food for the masses.  Enough with my complaining. Time to review some food! First up is the Volcano Cheesy Gordita Crunch. This was a no brainer. The CGC is a soft Gordita shell filled with melted cheese and a crunchy taco with Baja Sauce stuffed inside. While not listed on the menu, it is available at most Taco Bell’s if you ask. Both this and the Volcano menu have a ton of fans that frequently voice their opinions online. The CGC even has its own Facebook account with legions of followers. Combining the CGC with spicy volcano goodness seems pretty logical to me. I have been wondering for some time why Taco Bell has yet to come out with it.

My version of the Volcano Cheesy Gordita Crunch is just a regular CGC minus the Baja Sauce, and I add Lava Sauce and jalapenos. This was fantastic. Soft, crunchy, beefy, spicy, melty, cheesy… etc; this is exactly what Taco Bell menu items aspire to become. The Lava Sauce is what seems like a weird combination of liquid cheese, powdered chilies, and some kind of oily mayo type sauce. While odd, it tastes fantastic. I also never noticed before how sublime Taco Bell’s pickled jalapenos are. Pleasantly tart with a touch of heat. It had none of the chemical taste that comes from some commercially pickled jalapenos. The two new ingredients made the VCGC better than the original. By far one of the best items I have ever eaten at Taco Bell.

With the California Crunchwrap, I decided to play around a little bit. I modeled it after the tacos I make at home. Mine consisted of steak, refried beans, fiesta salsa, guacamole, Fire roasted and Baja Sauces all layered between a flat corn tostada shell and grilled in a flour tortilla. They don’t have the Fire Roasted Sauce in the kitchen, but I figured if this was a real promotion they could shove some in a squeeze bottle. I just used the packets.

This was good but not great. The combination of flavors was quite nice. They all play very well together, but its big downfall was the quality of the ingredients. The steak is plain terrible. If Chipotle’s steak is a ten, this is a negative seven. They don’t even try to mask the fact that it comes pre-cooked in a bag. Flavorless meat nuggets would be a more appropriate name. The guacamole and fiesta salsa suffered from the same problem as the steak. It lacked the freshness that comes from real Mexican cuisine. They don’t taste bad, just muted. No bright citrusy cilantro or creamy avocado came through.

The second problem was the giant pocket of sour cream I hit about halfway through the Crunchwrap. I asked for it Fresco Style, which means no sour cream. Somehow it still wiggled its way in there. All it did was make everything blander than it already was. I personally am sick of TB adding this and nacho cheese to every new promotional item that comes out. With all the cool sauces they have to play with, for some reason they constantly use these as a crutch on the wrong leg. The Beefy Melt Crapito being the perfect example. Even when trying to play chef, I still can’t escape their sour cream.  Overall though, it was still pretty good. The Fire Roasted Sauce added a nice smokiness that complemented the other ingredients very well. The California Crunchwrap was just a little too ambitious for its own good.

I hope this post inspires Taco Bell to come up with some cool new fun promotional items that are part of the heritage of their successful restaurant empire, and stop insulting the public with more Beefy Melt Burritos. Yes we will eat stuff that is barely food, but at least indulge us by making it taste good.  I also hope this post inspires GrubGrade readers to try these items or come up with their own. Let me know what ideas you guys have. But do know that it is risky to get drastically different items than what is on the menu. I went to a corporate store at 10am when no other customers were there and my order was still wrong. WILL I EVER ESCAPE THAT DAMN LITE SOUR CREAM!?

***There is no rating or price because of all the severe variables.  Any ideas for your own Taco Bell combinations?

Pros: Taco Bell will make just about anything you ask for. Lava Sauce exists and is not some mythical food of legends. Even bad guacamole is still tasty. Eating fast food in ambient lighting makes me feel hip and trendy.

Cons: The mental image of a burn victim in a swimsuit. (Sorry...) Taco Bell execs that think Americans will eat anything. Cows for making sweet delicious milk that gets turned into horrid lite sour cream that I can't get away from and I'm pretty sure watches me while I sleep.

17 comments on “Review: California Crunchwrap and Volcano Cheesy Gordita Crunch from Taco Bell

  1. Adam says:

    Your dislike of sour cream is like my dislike of “white sauce” and all mayo-based products. Really, what is the point of FF places throwing it on everything?

    • Chefprotoss or dan says:

      Actually I think sour cream is awesome. When it is used properly anyway. Taco bell’s sour cream really sucks too. Not tangy at all. I agree about mayo based sauces. For different reasons though. Most are terrible. Really good mayo is an addiction of mine. Kind of like you with ketchup. =P

      • Adam says:

        I’m not addicted to ketchup. I just use it in place of other stuff. Fast Food = Salt bombs. My thinking goes, you want to cut that salt with something with initial sweetness and a slight acidity. You also want that mouthful of something viscous without all that extra fat and heaviness. Hence, ketchup. I also carry with me lemon juice packets, or used to when I was in college, and could swipe them from the dining hall. Fast food lacks in astringency and brightness, and it’s amazing what a little lemon juice will do.

        • Chefprotoss or dan says:

          Lol, you were born to write about food adam. =)

        • Keith says:

          Dude Adam, ketchup is loaded with salt. It’s just got so much sugar that it’s covered up.

          I do agree with you on the lemon juice thing though.

          What I don’t understand is that “white sauces” like mayo, sour cream and ranch dressing all taste completely different. Ranch is too sweet for my taste, but mayo and sour cream are both delicious and not particularly flavorful. As for tartar sauce – that’s fairly acidic and goes perfectly with fish… haha, I don’t think you’ll ever live down ketchup on a filet-o-fish!

          I’m pretty sure that taco bell’s sour cream is sweetened. Can anyone back me up on that?

          BTW, great article Chefprotoss. Love the idea of creating new Taco Bell items. I’m guess you actually ordered these items like this? I would have liked to see a picture of the inside of the CGC with volcano sauce, but I guess you can only take so many weird looks while photographing food on your car.

          • Keith says:

            I stand corrected, i see the pictures now… Google Reader blocks some of them I guess.

  2. Scott says:

    dude try the potato burrito with volcano sauce…. SO GOOD

  3. astrid says:

    Hilarious….I could see this type of ingenuity spreading to other restuarants. How about “new” menu items for White Castle?

  4. terry tate says:

    o man i was so excited to hear of a volcano cheesy gordita crunch. cgc’s are amazing as they are, id definitely try a volcano style one. im not a fan of the white sauces myself aside from baja and some good ranches. also, taco bell needs to bring back the chicken fiesta melt. it was basically a chicken meximelt in a gordita shell. unbelievably good when they had them a few years back, no idea why they havent resurfaced

  5. SkippyMom says:

    I can’t remember the last time we went to taco bell and our order was right. Mind you we only order simple tacos and bean burritos with no modifying. Straight off the menu and they fail everytime.

    And I don’t understand the concept of lite sour cream on fast food. Kind of an oxymoron.

  6. Shannon says:

    Why I quit going to Taco Bell years ago evades me. Ideally something I would like to eat there is something at least based in part on a menu item they used to sell. I would want a dish with rice, chicken, and vegetables.

  7. Briana says:

    Hi Adam!

    As perhaps the world’s biggest fan of the CGC, this idea of combining the insane spice of Lava sauce with a CGC is simultaneously frightening and delightful, like learning that the Rapture is coming up and you’re going to be Raptured.

    I lol’d at your ardent distaste for lite sour cream.


  8. MZ says:

    Does anyone remember the Toxic Hell fajita wraps in the 90s?

  9. snuff says:

    You’ve got me thinking about my own bell concoctions with this post. My favorite would be the collaboration of the mucho grande nachos from a decade ago and the current chicken quesadilla. The mucho grande nacho was like a double-sized nacho bell grande and I’d cover it with the quesadilla sauce and chicken.

  10. Josh Christopherson says:

    I made my own bell-coction today for lunch. I got them to make me a Volcano Crunch (red tortilla strips) Chicken Quesadilla. A bit on the spicy side – but delish!

    • Chefprotoss or dan says:

      Josh, you are a genuis! That sounds awesome! A volcano quesadilla! Man I hope taco bell reads your comment.

  11. Ben says:

    I do taco bell creations all the time. my favorite right now is to stuff a bean burrito inside a double decker taco. surprisingly its not too messy if they wrap the burrito properly.